Investigator: Sen. Wilson did not violate sex harassment policy; related investigation ongoing

Published: Dec. 12, 2017 at 2:34 PM AKST
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An internal investigation concluded that Sen. David Wilson, R-Wasilla, did not violate sexual harassment policies when he placed a phone near the skirt of a legislative employee earlier this year. A related investigation regarding Wilson's recent news conference on the topic is ongoing.

The encounter took place June 15 outside the office of House Speaker Bryce Edgmon. As the House majority caucus met behind close doors, Wilson approached the door. A legislative employee stood in his way. Wilson had a his phone in his hand and, according to the investigative report, made a comment about recording the meeting.

The report says the staffer then “said something about the Senator up-skirting her,” or in other words, commenting on or questioning whether Wilson was attempting to film up her skirt. The Legislative Affairs Agency investigation concluded that did not appear to be the case.

"Sen. Wilson lowered the cellphone to a height level with the hemline of (the employee's) skirt, at a distance of about one foot to two feet away from the skirt," the report says.

The report also says: "Sen. Wilson and the eye witnesses seemed to generally agree that Senator Wilson's motive in lowering the cellphone was to record the meeting and what was taking place behind a close door and that he did not have an unlawful discriminatory motive. The motive was to record the meeting that was in progress."

Wilson remains under fire, however, for a recent news conference he held at legislative offices in Anchorage regarding the investigation. At that press event, Wilson said that he had been briefed on the report clearing him of sexual harassment.

He also criticized House Speaker Bryce Edgmon’s handling of the matter and demanded an apology for related news reports. Journalists for KTVA and the Juneau Empire saw the encounter and have provided first-hand accounts. The Legislative Council has not publicly released surveillance video of the exchange.

Edgmon responded that Wilson might have violated the legislature’s anti-harassment policy when he publicly criticized witnesses.

Senate leaders released a statement today saying they are taking Edgmon’s allegations “very seriously” and are investigating.

Legislative Affairs Agency investigator Skiff Lobaugh said he began looking into the encounter on Nov. 6. His conclusions are dated Nov. 30. The Senate Rules Committee released a lightly redacted copy of the report to the public Tuesday.

Lobaugh wrote that while Wilson’s behavior did not appear to violate sexual harassment policy and that there is no evidence he was trying to angle the phone up the staffer's skirt or do anything other than record – or jokingly pretend to record – the closed-door meeting.

Still, Lobaugh wrote, legislative staffers may be reluctant to object to questionable behavior by lawmakers.

"While Sen. Wilson may have been acting with joking and friendly intentions his actions and comments still put (the legislative employee) in a stressful no-win predicament," he wrote.